Black Lives Matter Fredericton has announced a new bursary for Black students at two New Brunswick universities.
In a Tuesday news release, the group says it is hoping to remove barriers to university education for low-income Black students.
“We know that there are several barriers to accessing a post-secondary education for Black students in particular, because of historical exclusion from academic institutions, but also the income gap between Black students and their white counterparts,” says Husoni Raymond, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Fredericton (BLMF).
“Our hope is to help more Black students complete university so they’re able to contribute to society in various ways.”
The bursary will provide $500 per year to two students, one at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and one at St. Thomas University (STU) in Fredericton.
“We’re hoping to help 20 students over the next 10 years, and hopefully receive more donations in the future we can contribute more to these bursaries,” Raymond says.
“The criteria is a Black student that demonstrates financial need.”
Raymond says this bursary will be the first financial aid targeted at low-income Black students at STU.
“We are very excited to work with Black Lives Matter Fredericton to make these bursaries available for Black students in financial need,” said Dionne Izzard, director of advancement and alumni relations at STU, in the news release.
“UNB’s mission is to inspire and educate people to become problem solvers and leaders in the world. This bursary will help make post-secondary education more affordable for marginalized students, and that’s a great step forward,” said Shelley Clayton, director of Student Services Fredericton at UNB, in the release.
The funding for the bursary came from donations to Black Lives Matter Fredericton over the last few months, Raymond says.
“It’s basically from the generosity of community organizations and community members, since we’ve been doing activism and lobbying since June. This is just one way in which we’re giving back to the community that has given to us.
“We are finding ways that we can give back to community to help with Black liberation, Black empowerment.”
The bursary was named after Mary Lousie McCarthy-Brandt, whom Raymond describes as an advocate and a mentor.
“(McCarthy-Brandt) has been a pillar support for Black Lives Matter Fredericton and the Black community here,” he said.
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“She’s an elder that is always available to chat and to provide guidance and support and she’s someone that’s been talking about racism in New Brunswick for decades.”
In 2015, McCarthy won a racial profiling case against Shopper’s Drug Mart in Toronto, after a store employee accused her of stealing and proceeded to search McCarthy-Brandt’s bag without her consent.
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that she was accused because she was Black, and the company was ordered to pay McCarthy-Brandt $8,000.
McCarthy-Brandt is the former president, and current board member, of New Brunswick Black History Society.
“She has a lot of experience with racial discrimination and racial profiling and she’s translated that into a passion for preserving Black history and empowering her communities,” Raymond says.
“Just as how these bursaries will help support and empower Black students, that’s exactly what Dr. Mary Lousie McCarthy-Brandt has done for our community over the past few years.”
Raymond says she felt honoured and excited to hear about the bursary.
“That’s exactly what we hoped to do, is show our appreciation for the kindness she has shown the Black folks here within the community.”
Raymond says he hopes universities and organizations will see the need for establishing targeted financial aid for marginalized students.
“They do face enhanced barriers,” Raymond says, “particularly financial barriers for low-income Black students, and the social barriers they face on university campuses. The least these universities can do is provide more funding for their Black students.”
This bursary, he says, is just the start.
“This is one important step moving forward and I hope to see universities and organizations take the same step in investing in the Black community. So much has been taken away from us… I think this is a form of giving back.”